SMS Classic: Help I’m Busy (Part 1)

I’m going through some of my old SMS posts because of two simultaneous requests from some friends about “scheduling.” So, it gave me the idea to re-post some of the blog posts that seem to have ministered to the masses.


A good friend of mine, whom I consider very much “on the ball” as a Youth Pastor recently confessed to me that he’s really struggling with keeping his schedule straight and balanced while still trying to maintain his sanity as he navigates youth ministry, church ministry, family life, personal relationships, etc. etc.

Okay, this wasn’t a just a good friend.  It was four.  I literally have had the same conversation with four of my good youth pastor buddies in the last three weeks.  So, I thought I’d give this Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) blog post a shot at tackling the foundation of the Youth Pastor’s Time Management.

Some people are “charts and graphs” people.  Others reject them.  So I’m going to challenge myself to do a two week SMS blog post again and write to both those who can deal (or should deal) with the attempt at becoming organized with a thought-out plan (methodology). Next week I’ll try to get in the mind of a free-thinker and create a non-system way (philosophy) of taking on the busy schedule.  So, those who already reject me for being “chart-y” give it a shot anyway, and/or come back next week.

Let’s lay the cards out on the table right away–we  (Youth Pastors/Leaders) want to do well, we want to please others, we want others to like us.  But we feel like we’re failing a lot of the people a lot of the time.  It seems, as a Youth Leader (whether paid or not) that ministry never ends and there is always someone else we can be reaching out to, discipling, blessing or keeping off our backside.  Toby’s Mom wonders why you’re not giving Toby individual attention; the board member wonders why he didn’t see your truck at the office “at all” on Thursday?  Mr. Gregory emailed you about the most trivial theological discrepancy “he heard” you taught his daughter last Sunday. Unfortunately this may be your life:

Why didn’t you return my email?… Where are your receipts?… When is camp?How come we didn’t do more songs last night?… Why do we sing so much?Can you fill-in for me this Sunday and preach?… We used to have 40 at youth group, why are there only 32 now?… Toby didn’t know about the mission trip application deadline, can he still turn in his form?… Honey, how many nights are you going to be out this week?… Daddy, you went to Toby’s game, how come you didn’t come to my spelling bee?

Jesus.  Will. You. Please. Return.  NOW?

I am praying for you.  I’ve been there.  I want to help.  This week I’ll present one possible help: become a little more task-oriented by creating a pretty simple system that helps you keep things in place.  The reality, this is not a fix-all, but I hope it creates a little rhythm in your life and will help you see when and where you do and do not have margin in your life. Essentially, I hope it gives you a little more of a helicopter view of your ministry/church life and could possibly give you freedom to say the words that you (I) need to say a little more often: “No” and “Help.”

The following are some suggestions to give yourself a little overview of your ministry life and the landscape of the year, it’s just the first of a two step process for the day (be patient).

  • Create a list of the “majors” in your ministry (sacred cows and regularly scheduled programs): This list should include youth group night, Sunday school times, small group time, all the normal camps or retreats you do, etc. You’ll probably add to this list as you think through the following lists as well…
  • Make a separate list of your typical weekly meetings: This list may include staff meetings, one-on-ones, network meetings, etc.
  • Jot down a third list of the weekly tasks that are obvious to you:You need time to study for messages, time to return calls, plan for programs, set up chairs, powerpoint creation, etc.
  • Write down (4th list) the things you like to avoid that take time (that is, if they haven’t already been listed above): For me this was stuff like data entry, return phone calls (I’m much better with email), reports for committees or elders, financial matters, etc.
  • Create a 5th list of the spiritual and relational stuff you wish you had more time to do: This list, for me, would have included more prayer time, personal normal sabbath, more prayer time, long term study for a teaching series, time of being mentored (not just mentoring others), more prayer time, personal evangelism, more prayer time.

Now that you’re overwhelmed again with all the stuff you can/should/need to to, you’re going to create a chart that helps you to see that some, even most, of the stuff can get done if you’re smart about where you place these items in your chart (as you add them to your chart, scratch them off your lists).

A couple tips:

  1. Be realistic… I have friends who love to study the Word.  In fact, I love to study the Word.  But the reality is, I couldn’t be effective at being a Youth Pastor if I was spending 10-12 hours on each talk.  I typically had 2 or 3 messages each week (not including the semi-regularly scheduled preaching in “Big Church”).  I would have had to neglect other areas of ministry–namely shepherding people– if I were to spend that much time on each talk.  The same could be said for other areas, not just messages.  So, be realistic about how much time you actually need to spend on emails, financial matters and messages.
  2. Understand your season… If you’re creating this chart while in the midst of planning a camp, retreat or mission, you’re probably overwhelmed with how long things take. You may want to wait until after the major event to give yourself a more realistic view. In addition, understand that this chart is just an overview, not a “have to” list.  This is YOUR chart, it can change and it isn’t a legalistic formula (I hope).
  3. Don’t celebrate your busyness… You are going to have to come to the realization that you simply can’t do it all, your above created lists may be so long that an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper isn’t even big enough for your Sunday tasks.  This is when you need counsel. And probably counseling. Seriously, have someone help you pare down your list/chart.  Don’t be the Pied Piper and try to do it all yourself.  Begin to recruit others around you to do some of the stuff you don’t like or aren’t good at.

StudentMinAdminPlanner (larger view)

In Word, Pages or even Excel, create for yourself a simple chart, like the one above, where you plug in those lists that you’ve created.  Take this bad-boy to church, give one to your spouse and begin to operate with it as a bit of a check-list.  In a couple weeks you’ll see that you need to make some changes or perhaps you’ll find that you’re not quite the ANALytical thinker and need more of a “philosophical” approach that I’ll attempt to take a crack at next week.

Last… remember you’re called to minister to students, leaders and parents.  This is a great calling. I am excited that you’ve been called to it and even though the words don’t come often enough, I’ll say them again.  Thank you!




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